Volume XXIII

Lost Chastity to Lost Honor: The Heuristic Shift in Rape Discourse by the Supreme Court of Pakistan

by Orubah Sattar Ahmed

The Supreme Court of Pakistan has shown a propensity to engage in behavioral analysis to assess whether a purported rape victim fit the bill of the prototypical profile of a female rape victim as defined by societal norms, by inculcating this version within its common law discourse. This phenomenon has been visible especially between 1980–1999 during Zia’s radical Islamization era and can be traced back to pre-colonial era. From 2000–2018, there is a gap in literature, which this paper aims to fill by engaging in case law analysis and trend identification. A close examination of rape cases of the Supreme Court of Pakistan over the last 18 years show that the Supreme Court has deviated from its earlier precedents of using character as a factor to determine the veracity of female rape victim’s allegations. However, the Supreme Court’s judicial discourse is still deeply entrenched in sexist assumptions about the role of women in society. This paper proposes a complete overhaul of the linguistics, heuristics and common law assumptions made by the Supreme Court of Pakistan as an essential institutional restructuring mechanism, which is necessary in making access to justice easier for female rape victims.

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